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(1927 - 2019)

Michael Gielen’s father was the distinguished opera and drama director Joseph Gielen, who was active in the main European centres before and after World War II. In addition his uncle was the pianist Eduard Steuermann, a pupil of both Busoni and Schoenberg. With the advent of the war, the Gielen family settled in Buenos Aires in 1940, where Michael studied philosophy at the University of Buenos Aires; and music theory with Erwin Leuchter and piano with Rita Kurzmann-Leuchter, both privately, from 1942 to 1947. He began his professional career as a répétiteur at the Teatro Colón, the leading opera house in South America, and performed the complete piano works of Schoenberg in 1949. The following year Gielen returned to Europe, studying musical analysis with Josef Polnauer in Vienna from 1950 to 1953 at the same time as working until 1958 as a répétiteur at the Vienna State Opera. He also began to conduct at the Vienna State Opera from 1954, and was soon active as both a concert and recording conductor, appearing for instance often on the Vox label directing various Viennese orchestras in concerto accompaniments.

His first major appointment was as chief conductor of the Royal Opera in Stockholm (1960–1965), followed by a similar appointment at Cologne; here he conducted the first performance of Zimmermann’s Die Soldaten in 1965. Gielen served as chief conductor of the Belgian National Orchestra between 1969 and 1973, when he moved to a similar position with the Netherlands Opera; subsequently he became chief conductor at the Frankfurt Opera in 1977, with artistic responsibility also for the Frankfurt Museum concerts, holding this post for ten years. His long association with the BBC Symphony Orchestra was formalised in 1978 when he became the orchestra’s principal guest conductor. Gielen was chief conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra from 1980 until 1986, when he became chief conductor of the South West German Radio Symphony Orchestra at Baden-Baden. This orchestra had been founded by Hans Rosbaud, like Gielen a staunch advocate of contemporary music, and recordings of many of Gielen’s performances with it have been released commercially. In 1995 he made his debut at the Salzburg Festival conducting Alban Berg’s Lulu.

After twenty-three years at the head of the South West German Radio Symphony Orchestra in Baden-Baden, Gielen stepped down in 1999 to become one of its principal guest conductors. In addition he regularly conducts the Deutsches Symphony Orchestra in Berlin (formally the RIAS Berlin Orchestra) and at the Deutsche Oper, Berlin. Between 1987 and 1995 he also taught conducting at the Salzburg Mozarteum. Gielen was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Hochschule der Künste in Berlin in 2000 and has received many other honours including the Hessischer Staatspreis (1985), the Adorno-Preis of the city of Frankfurt (1986), the Grosser Musikpreis of the city of Vienna (1995) and the Musikpreis of the city of Frankfurt (1997). In addition to his conducting career Gielen has been active as a composer; initially strongly influenced by the Second Viennese School, his more recent works have reflected contemporary ideas and techniques.

As a conductor Gielen’s performances are marked by an extremely clear musical vision, in which extraneous emotion has little place. His performances unfold on the basis of a clear and dispassionate exposition of the score. This approach has made him a master of many of the major scores of post-war music, such as the Requiem of Ligeti, Zimmermann’s Requiem for a Young Poet, Stockhausen’s Carré, and Henze’s Dramatic Scenes from Orpheus, the first performances of which he conducted. In addition he is a notable interpreter of significant late-Romantic figures such as Bruckner, Mahler and Zemlinsky.

Gielen’s recording career falls into several distinct phases. His initial recordings, as already noted, appeared predominantly on the Vox label. One of the most important of these was the coupling of the Piano and Violin Concertos of Schoenberg, coincidentally with the South West German Radio Symphony Orchestra, which did much to increase knowledge and understanding of these works. During the 1960s and 1970s Gielen recorded a large amount of contemporary music, predominantly for the Wergo label; although another major Schoenberg recording, of his opera Moses und Aron with the Austrian Radio Symphony Orchestra, appeared on the Philips label. Following his permanent appointment with the Baden-Baden orchestra, many of Gielen’s performances with this ensemble were published by labels having a geographical association with it, such as the Stuttgart-based companies Intercord and Hänssler. Gielen’s undoubted power in the concert hall has also been captured on several live recordings, such as his 1981 Proms performance of Zemlinsky’s Lyric Symphony, with Elisabeth Söderström, Sir Thomas Allen and the BBC Symphony Orchestra. A musician of wide sympathies, Gielen has been a major force in music during the latter decades of the twentieth century and beyond, his work consistently challenging on an intellectual basis: for example he has often made unusual pairings on record of works by different composers, thus making the listener discard preconceptions and discover anew the works in question.

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BARTÓK, B.: Piano Concertos Nos. 1, 2 and 3 / Rhapsody, Op. 1 / Scherzo, "Burlesque" / Sonata for 2 Pianos (Sandor, Reinhardt) Vox Legends
BARTÓK, B.: Wooden Prince Suite (The) / Concerto for Orchestra / STRAVINSKY, I.: Pulcinella (Michael Gielen Edition, Vol. 5 (1967-2014)) SWR Classic
Ballet, Orchestral, Ballet, Orchestral, Concerto, Orchestral, Concerto, Choral - Sacred, Orchestral, Choral - Sacred, Orchestral, Ballet, Orchestral, Vocal Ensemble
BARTOK: Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta / Violin Concerto No. 1 SWR Classic
Orchestral, Concerto
BARTOK: Wooden Prince Suite (The) / Concerto for Orchestra SWR Classic
BEETHOVEN, L. van: Missa solemnis (Hargan, Lipovšek, Moser, Hölle, Wiener Singverein, Vienna Radio Symphony, Gielen) Orfeo
Choral - Sacred
BEETHOVEN, L. van: Missa Solemnis (Orgonasova, Remmert, Elsner, Kristinsson, Gielen) Capriccio
Choral - Sacred
BEETHOVEN, L. van: Symphonies (Complete) (Gielen) SWR Classic
BEETHOVEN, L. van: Symphonies (Complete) / Overtures / Mass in C Major (Michael Gielen Edition, Vol. 9 (1967-2007)) SWR Classic
Orchestral, Choral - Sacred, Orchestral
BEETHOVEN, L. van: Symphony No. 3, "Eroica" / BUSONI, F.: Turandot Suite / Zwei Studien zu Doktor Faust (Cincinnati Symphony, Gielen) Vox Box
BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 8 / Piano Concerto No. 3 / Grosse Fugue SWR Classic
Orchestral, Concerto, Orchestral
BRAHMS, J.: Symphonies Nos. 1-4 / Piano Concerto No. 1 / Double Concerto (Michael Gielen Edition, Vol. 3 (1989-2005)) SWR Classic
Orchestral, Choral - Secular, Orchestral, Concerto, Orchestral, Concerto
BRAHMS: Symphonies Nos. 3 and 4 SWR Classic
BRAHMS: Symphony No. 1 / Tragic Overture SWR Classic
BRAHMS: Symphony No. 2 in D Major / Haydn Variations SWR Classic
BRENDEL, Alfred: Young Brendel - The Vox Years - Highlights from Brendel's Early Recording Career Vox Box
BRUCKNER, A.: Symphonies Nos. 1-9 (Michael Gielen Edition, Vol. 2 (1968-2013)) SWR Classic
BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 3 in D Minor, WAB 103 / WAGNER: Lohengrin (Excerpts) SWR Classic
Opera, Orchestral
BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 6 in A Major, WAB 106 / BACH: Prelude and Fugue in E-Flat Major, BWV 552 SWR Classic
BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 8 in C Minor, WAB 108 / FELDMAN: Coptic Light SWR Classic
ENESCU: Oedipe Naxos
GIELEN: Pflicht und Neigung / SCHOENBERG: Die gluckliche Hand, Op. 18 SWR Classic
Orchestral, Opera, Vocal, Choral - Secular, Orchestral
HAMBRAEUS, B.: Fresque sonore / Transfiguration (Sveriges Radios Symfoniokester, Gielen, Hambraeus) (1966-1967) Swedish Society
LISZT, F.: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 and 2 / Totentanz / Malédiction / Piano Sonata in B Minor (Brendel, Vienna Symphony, Gielen) Vox Box
Orchestral, Concerto
MAHLER, G.: Knaben Wunderhorn (Des) (Iven, Muller-Brachmann, South West German Radio Symphony, Gielen) SWR Classic
Orchestral, Vocal
MAHLER, G.: Lied von der Erde (Das) (Kallisch, Jerusalem, South West German Radio Symphony, Gielen) SWR Classic
MAHLER, G.: Symphonies Nos. 1-10 / Orchestral Song Cycles (Michael Gielen Edition, Vol. 6 (1988-2014)) SWR Classic
Orchestral, Vocal, Orchestral, Vocal, Orchestral, Vocal
MAHLER, G.: Symphony No. 3 in D Minor / SCHUBERT: Rosamunde, D. 797 / WEBERN, A.: 6 Pieces for Orchestra (Gielen) SWR Classic
Orchestral, Vocal
MAHLER, G.: Symphony No. 6 (Michael Gielen: In Memoriam) (South West German Radio Symphony Orchestra, Baden-Baden and Freiburg, Gielen) (1971, 2013) SWR Classic
MAHLER: Kindertotenlieder / Symphony No. 10: Adagio / WEBERN: Passacaglia, Op. 1 / Im Sommerwind SWR Classic
Orchestral, Vocal, Orchestral
MAHLER: Symphony No. 1 in D Major / IVES: Central Park in the Dark SWR Classic
MAHLER: Symphony No. 2 in C Minor / SCHOENBERG: Kol Nidre, Op. 39 / KURTAG: Stele, Op. 33 SWR Classic
Orchestral, Choral - Sacred
MAHLER: Symphony No. 4 in G Major / SCHREKER: Prelude to a Drama SWR Classic
MAHLER: Symphony No. 5 in C-Sharp Minor SWR Classic
MAHLER: Symphony No. 6 in A Minor / BERG: 3 Pieces for Orchestra, Op. 6 SWR Classic
MAHLER: Symphony No. 8 in E-Flat Major / SCHOENBERG: Jakobsleiter (Die) (Gielen) SWR Classic
Choral - Sacred, Orchestral
MAHLER: Symphony No. 9 in D Major / BOULEZ: Rituel / Notations I - IV, VII SWR Classic
MAHLER: Symphony No. 10 in F-Sharp Major SWR Classic
MAHLER: Symphony No. 7 in E Minor SWR Classic
MESSEN (Masses) - MOZART, W.A. / HAYDN, G.F. / SCHUBERT, F. / WEBER, C.-M. von / BEETHOVEN, L.V. / CHERUBINI, L. / GOUNOD, C.-F. Capriccio
Choral - Sacred
Orchestral and Choral Music - WAGNER, R. / BERLIOZ, H. / SCHUMANN, R. / DVOŘÁK, A. (Michael Gielen Edition, Vol. 4 (1968-2014)) SWR Classic
Concerto, Orchestral, Concerto, Orchestral, Choral - Sacred, Orchestral, Concerto, Orchestral, Choral - Secular, Orchestral
Orchestral Music - BACH, J.S. / MOZART, W.A. / HAYDN, J. / BEETHOVEN, L. van / SCHUBERT, F. (Michael Gielen Edition, Vol. 1 (1967-2010)) SWR Classic
Orchestral, Choral - Sacred, Orchestral, Concerto, Orchestral, Choral - Sacred, Orchestral, Choral - Sacred, Orchestral, Choral - Secular, Orchestral
Orchestral Music - DEBUSSY, C. / HINDEMITH, P. / IVES, C. / JANÁČEK, L. / PETRASSI, G. / RAVEL, M. (Michael Gielen Edition, Vol. 7 (1961-2006)) SWR Classic
Opera, Orchestral, Choral - Sacred, Concerto, Opera, Orchestral, Ballet, Choral - Sacred, Orchestral, Vocal, Orchestral, Choral - Secular, Choral - Sacred, Orchestral, Vocal
Orchestral Music - SCHOENBERG, A. / BERG, A. / WEBERN, A. (Michael Gielen Edition, Vol. 8 (1954-2013)) SWR Classic
Orchestral, Choral - Secular, Chamber Music, Concerto, Orchestral, Opera, Vocal, Choral - Secular, Orchestral, Concerto, Choral - Sacred, Orchestral, Concerto, Orchestral, Concerto, Orchestral, Concerto, Choral - Sacred, Concerto, Choral - Secular, Orchestral, Choral - Secular, Vocal, Orchestral, Choral - Secular, Vocal, Orchestral
RACHMANINOV, S.: Piano Concerto No. 2 / TCHAIKOVSKY, P.I.: Piano Concerto No. 1 (Vienna Musikgesellschaft Orchestra, Gielen) Allegretto
RAVEL, M.: Daphnis et Chloe / POULENC, F.: Les Biches (Les Ballets Russes, Vol. 2) (Gielen) SWR Classic
RIHM, W.: Quid est Deus / Ungemaltes Bild / Frau/Stimme (Rihm Edition, Vol. 4) SWR Classic
RIHM: Morphonie / Klangbeschreibung I-III SWR Classic
RIHM: Styx und Lethe / Dritte Musik / Music for Oboe and Orchestra (Rihm Edition, Vol. 1) SWR Classic
SCHOENBERG: Gurre-Lieder SWR Classic
Choral - Secular
SCHUBERT, F.: Wanderer Fantasy / Impromptus, D. 899 and 935 / Moments musicaux / Sonata for Piano 4 Hands, "Grand Duo" (Brendel) Vox Box
SCHUBERT: Symphony No. 9 in C Major, D. 944 / STRAUSS: Voices of Spring, Op. 410 SWR Classic
SCHUMANN, R.: Symphonies Nos. 2 and 3, "Rhenish" (South West German Radio Symphony, Gielen) SWR Classic
SCRIABIN: Symphony No. 3, Op. 43 / BUSONI: Berceuse elegiaque, Op. 42 SWR Classic
STRAVINSKY, I.: Canticum Sacrum / Agon / Requiem Canticles (Gielen) SWR Classic
Ballet, Choral - Sacred
STRAVINSKY: Symphony in 3 Movements / Symphony in C / Symphony of Psalms SWR Classic
Choral - Sacred, Orchestral

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